Save legal aid!
New proposals to reform legal aid could mean some vulnerable families are put in even greater danger.
The Bill has been debated in the House of Commons, however more campaigning is required and the Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords. Women’s Aid is working with others to campaign and lobby on the Bill including the National Federation of Women’s Institutes who launched the report Legal Aid is a Lifeline at a joint meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid.
Organisations that stand up for families at risk, including Gingerbread, Women’s Aid and the Women’s Institute, have also written a manifesto for family justice. They’ve shared their main concerns about the new laws which you can read in full here.
The proposed reforms to legal aid in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill are likely to leave more survivors and their children at risk because they will be unable to access legal aid for representation in family court proceedings, and we know that a majority of survivors experience post-separation harassment especially via child contact. Our main concerns are as follows:
- The definition of domestic violence in the Bill does not include psychological abuse.
- The proposed criteria for eligibility for legal aid rely on high levels of evidence of reporting to justice agencies or criminal justice action against the perpetrator. Most survivors do not tell justice or statutory agencies about the domestic violence they are experiencing and most 999 calls result in no further action against the perpetrator.
Women’s Aid is working to prevent these proposals from becoming law by asking MPs to support amendments or vote against.
Click this link to send a message to your MP asking your MP to vote against these proposals and support amendments to make the proposals workable for domestic survivors. Download some ideas for your message, including the proposed amendments, but do take or add what you need to personalise your message.
Read the Legal Aid campaign briefing prepared by Violence against Women Legal Aid Campaign Group.